FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No. 24 Arkansas breezed past Texas State on Saturday night inside Donald W. Reynolds Stadium with a 42-3 victory.
Here are some stats, information and random thoughts from the game as I empty my notebook and begin to prepare for the Razorbacks’ SEC opener next weekend against Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas.
- Offense: QB Austin Allen, RB Rawleigh Williams III, FB Hayden Johnson, WR Keon Hatcher, WR Dominique Reed, TE Jeremy Sprinkle, LT Dan Skipper, LG Hjalte Froholdt, C Jake Raulerson, RG Frank Ragnow, RT Colton Jackson.
- Defense: DE Tevin Beanum, DT Taiwan Johnson, DT Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE Deatrich Wise Jr., LB Brooks Ellis, LB Dre Greenlaw, CB Jared Collins, FS Josh Liddell, SS Santos Ramirez, NB Henre’ Toliver, CB Ryan Pulley.
Stat that stood out
Saturday marked Arkansas’ most lopsided win of the Bret Bielema era against an FBS opponent.
Here’s a quick list of the largest margins of victory for the Hogs since Bielema’s first season in 2013. Final scores are in parentheses, and games in italics were against lower-division FCS teams.
- 66 (73-7) vs. Nicholls State, Sept. 6, 2014
- 39 (42-3) vs. Texas State, Sept. 17, 2016
- 38 (52-14) vs. Northern Illinois, Sept. 20, 2014
- 35 (48-13) vs. UTEP, Sept. 5, 2015
- 35 (63-28) vs. Tennessee-Martin, Oct. 31, 2015
- 30 (30-0) vs. Ole Miss, Nov. 22, 2014
- 28 (45-17) vs. UAB, Oct. 25, 2014
- 25 (28-3) vs. Missouri, Nov. 27, 2015
- 24 (31-7) vs. Texas, Dec. 29, 2014 (Texas Bowl)
- 22 (45-23) vs. Kansas State, Jan. 2, 2016 (Liberty Bowl)
- 21 (49-28) at Texas Tech, Sept. 13, 2014
- 20 (34-14) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Aug. 31, 2013
- 17 (31-14) at LSU, Nov. 14, 2015
- 17 (17-0) vs. LSU, Nov. 15, 2014
Now introducing …
Here are the Razorbacks that made their first career appearance Saturday, according to a quick look through Arkansas’ game notes:
- T.J. Hammonds, RB, Fr.: Hammonds was sent back deep for a punt return during the fourth quarter. As far as I can remember, that was his only appearance in the game. The Little Rock, Ark., product and former four-star recruit suffered a minor knee injury that needed surgery early in fall camp. He was on the Hogs’ travel roster last week to TCU and made news, but not for anything on-the-field.
- Blake Johnson, P, RFr.: Johnson was signed in February 2015 with the idea that he would immediately be the Hogs’ punter, but former walk-on Toby Baker won the job instead and still holds it as a senior. Johnson redshirted last year and on Saturday, averaged 47 yards on his first two career punts. Once Baker is gone, Johnson is likely going to take over, so his is certainly a name to remember.
- Cheyenne O’Grady, TE, RFr.: The former Fayetteville High star battled some injury problems during fall camp but made his Razorback debut against Texas State. Bielema said on Aug. 24 that true freshman Grayson Gunter was ahead of O’Grady and fellow redshirt freshman Will Gragg. The coach said O’Grady and Gragg each needed to “get to know our offense a lot better and become a lot more dependable.” Gragg is still awaiting his first career appearance.
- Paul Ramirez, OL, Jr.: The junior college transfer was battling for a starting spot during fall camp but a sprained MCL set him back. He could push for more playing time, especially as the O-line starters remain anything but settled three games into the season.
- T.J. Smith, DE, RFr.: The Moultrie, Ga., native redshirted last season as a true freshman and will likely struggle to get on the field much this season considering Arkansas’ deep, experienced and — most importantly — excellent defensive line. The former three-star prospect’s time may come, but it probably won’t be this year.
- Ty Storey, QB, RFr.: Storey won the backup job during fall camp and didn’t play in the first two games of the season. The Charleston, Ark., native played the fourth quarter and attempted only one pass, which was incomplete. If Storey plays much at all the rest of the season, it’s likely to be in a similar capacity.
Quote of the day
- Bielema, on keeping his team focused after last week’s TCU win: “I knew that our guys were going to hear about how well they played last week. I really put the screws to them about turning the page. I’m sure you guys got frustrated in our Tuesday and Wednesday press. I wouldn’t let them answer questions about last Saturday. They were supposed to move on. I think they did a pretty good job about that. In this league, if you worry too much about what happened yesterday, tomorrow hits you in the face.”
Other random thoughts and observations
- When the fourth quarter was about to begin and 10 minutes on the game clock instead of 15, I was pretty confused. I’ve never seen that happen before — I have seen my fair share of second-half running clocks in high school games — but it makes sense why they did it, with lightning moving into the Fayetteville area. Bielema explained after the game: “At halftime they came to us and said there might be some weather moving in about 9:30. … That’s when we had a discussion at the end of halftime there going on the field, we decided to take the third quarter normal, as is, and talked about adjusting the fourth quarter. Then they asked myself and (Texas State) Coach (Everett) Withers, and we came up with the 10-minute clock.”
- It was in Bielema’s best interest to keep his concerns about his offensive line to himself, and that’s what he’s tried to do. He doesn’t really need to say anything now after Saturday’s shifting around. The Hogs flipped Ragnow and Raulerson’s positions to start the game and switched between Colton Jackson and Brian Wallace at right tackle. It’s no surprise that Jackson is feeling the heat, as through the first two games, he was the starting O-lineman clearly struggling the most. I’ll be fascinated to see what the lineup looks like against Texas A&M.
- To my previous point about Bielema and mild deception, here’s what he said last Monday when asked about inconsistency between what he said and what happened in the ensuing game. The question was asked by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Bob Holt and concerned the kickoff specialist: “I will occasionally give you bad information … if I feel it can be advantageous for us on game day. You know what I mean?”
- True freshman De’jon Harris and junior Dwayne Eugene played in relief of starting linebackers Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw, but only in mop-up duty while the Hogs were just trying to run out the clock and escape healthy. Harris and Eugene simply must improve to the point where they can contribute.
- True freshman Connor Limpert sent three of his seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. In 10 kickoffs — six from Limpert and four from senior Adam McFain — during the Hogs’ first two games, just two were touchbacks. So, progress!
- A couple of reviews negated feel-good Arkansas touchdowns.
- First, Keon Hatcher scored on what appeared to be a 74-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter before officials reviewed it and determined he was down at the 1-yard line. Hatcher is, of course, coming off a broken foot that ruined his 2015 season. The good news? The 73-yard reception that was recorded is still his career long.
- Second, Arkansas’ Jeremiah Ledbetter hit Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones late in the first half, forcing what at first looked like a fumble that senior JaMichael Winston recovered and returned 53 yards for a touchdown. Officials reviewed the play and determined that Jones’ arm was moving forward, making it an incomplete pass. Winston was a team captain last year, but has been passed over on the depth chart by other players. Bummer for a good teammate who very nearly scored his first career touchdown.
- Rawleigh Williams III continues to show why he could be the next great Arkansas running back. He rushed for more than 100 yards for the second consecutive game and the third time of his career. His two touchdowns resulted in his first career multi-score game.
- True freshman running back Devwah Whaley saw his most action to date, with 11 carries for 50 yards. Here’s the thing about Whaley that you can tell, even against a bad opponent: This guy has a great burst. There was one point in the first half when he tripped, ruining what it looked like might become a long touchdown run.
- Senior Jeremy Sprinkle’s second quarter touchdown reception was the 10th of his career, tying him with D.J. Williams for the most career touchdown catches by a tight end in school history. Going back to last season, he’s caught seven touchdowns in his last six games.
- Senior linebacker Brooks Ellis led Arkansas with seven tackles. It is the seventh time in his career that he’s led the Hogs in tackling.
- Sophomore Santos Ramirez started again at strong safety, but junior De’Andre Coley played much more than he did a week ago at TCU. Ramirez and Coley have been listed with an “OR” between them on the depth chart the last two weeks after Ramirez struggled in the opener against Louisiana Tech.
- Ryan Pulley has been a lifesaver for the oft-injured Arkansas secondary. The sophomore has been simply excellent in his two starts.
- I am a tad surprised, though, by how little senior D.J. Dean — who is supposedly healthy — is getting on the field for important snaps.
- I think that about does it. I didn’t do a notebook emptying article after the first two games of the season, but will try to get something like this posted Sunday mornings for the rest of the season.
- Bielema will address reporters again Monday at 1 p.m. ET during his weekly news conference, marking the official beginning of Texas A&M week.
- Thanks for reading!